What is HLS Doing About Professor Brett Kavanaugh?

The credible allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee and Harvard Law School lecturer Brett Kavanaugh have left us with more questions than answers. Given that Kavanaugh’s class, “The Supreme Court since 2005,” is still on the schedule for winter term of this academic year, we have a few questions for the Harvard Law School administration.

Will Harvard Law School take seriously the credible allegation of Kavanaugh’s sexual assault against a young woman before he is allowed to continue teaching young women? Or will Harvard allow him to teach students without further inquiry—and continue paying him our tuition money? In 2018, he earned $27,490 for 9 days of teaching.

Has Harvard Law School considered how this opportunity to learn about the Supreme Court might not be equally available to women because many will self-select out of a class taught by a credibly accused sexual assailant? Women at this law school are already forced to opt out of clerkships and employment opportunities in order to avoid alleged sexual predators; they should not also be forced to opt out of classes. The administration diminishes women’s access to education when they fail to address allegations of abuse. Does Harvard have a process for handling allegations of this nature, and if so, is Kavanaugh being treated as any other faculty member would be? Or is he exempt from these processes because of his national prestige? Is a relationship with powerful jurists more important to Harvard Law School than the concerns of its students?

One would think that praising a president who is not only a known sexual predator, but who has even bragged about it, would at least call into question Kavanaugh’s stated commitment to gender equity. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, one-third of the men on the Supreme Court will have been credibly accused of sexual harassment or assault of women without accountability or apology. There will be almost as many men credibly accused of sexual harassment or assault sitting on the Supreme Court as there are women on the Court, total.

In recent Supreme Court history, all-male five-person majorities have exercised ultimate control over many aspects of women’s lives. It adds insult to injury that—if Kavanaugh is confirmed—40% of the voters in the all-male conservative voting bloc will have already shown their utter disregard for women’s dignity on the most fundamental level. And we can foresee that their opinions will lead to women being forced to bear children against their will, endure sexual harassment without redress, and lose the protections of anti-discrimination laws.

As law students, we care about process. But the Senate has made it clear that there will be no process here. The Senate Judiciary Committee has chosen to not require Kavanaugh’s alleged accomplice, Mark Judge, to testify under oath, nor is there any indication that other witnesses will be called. Senator Chuck Grassley has made clear that his priority is to push this nomination through as quickly as possible, leaving no time for a thorough and impartial investigation of the allegations. Even 27 years after Anita Hill’s testimony, the Senate has not provided a full, fair process for taking allegations of sexual abuse seriously.

Blackstone famously said, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.” We agree—but this is not a criminal prosecution. We do not believe that it is better that a guilty sexual assailant be given a lifetime position on the Supreme Court than one innocent person suffer the injustice of keeping his appellate judgeship on the D.C. Circuit, and, perhaps, losing his $3,054 a day gig at Harvard Law School. The Republicans in the Senate may not care about investigating these claims and appear poised to confirm Kavanaugh without regard to the allegations against him. As students, however, we will not accept that as the end of this matter. Unless a full and fair investigation is conducted, Harvard Law School cannot allow Kavanaugh to continue teaching its students and the Senate cannot confirm him to the Supreme Court.

Molly Coleman, Vail Kohnert-Yount, Jake Meiseles, & Sejal Singh

Jake Meiseles is a 3L, and Molly Coleman, Vail Kohnert-Yount, and Sejal Singh are 2Ls. They are involved in the Pipeline Parity Project.

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